Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Who is Rey?

star wars the force awakens rey face poster daisy ridley parents identiy the last jedi rian johnson jj abrams kylo ren reylo obi wan kenobi rey skywalker

The new heroine of the Star Wars movies, as I imagine we all know by now, is Rey. She’s a fantastic character, played well by Daisy Ridley, and she’s got a wonderful leitmotif to boot. (It’s one of my favourite pieces of Star Wars music, actually, and I’d probably go as far as to say it’s one of my favourite pieces of John Williams’ music as a whole.)

Rey’s lived on Jakku for much of her life, having to become nearly entirely self-sufficient; despite her wanderlust, she’s lead a very sheltered existence, always waiting for a family that would never come. (I thought her line upon seeing Takodana –  “I didn’t think there was this much green in the whole galaxy.” – was one of the more memorable subtle moments of the movie.) In the end, she’s a hero, much like Luke Skywalker before her.

While we know a lot about Rey as a person, though, there’s still much about her that’s a mystery. It’s the question first posited by one of the initial trailers:

“Who are you?”

At the minute, smart money suggests that she’s a Skywalker; a child that Luke fathered and abandoned during the thirty year stretch between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. And, you know, it could certainly explain a few things; Rey’s affinity with the force, her piloting prowess, Kylo Ren appearing to know of her on Jakku. Certainly, there are also some thematic parallels that could line up with Luke’s origins in A New Hope – but then, there are thematic parallels that could line up with everything in A New Hope. After all, I can’t imagine Han Solo is a reincarnated Obi-Wan, or anything like that.

Honestly, I am expecting Rey to be a Skywalker; I was, in fact, expecting the movie to end with a reversal of the iconic “I am your father” moment. But… there’s something about that idea that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, in much the same way the idea of Luke being Kylo Ren did. Luke Skywalker, iconic hero, abandoning his child to a life of slavery, not so different from how Anakin was brought up? I mean, particularly given Luke’s relationship with Vader, I can’t imagine he’d abandon his own child at all.

Similarly, the suggestion that Luke used to force to suppress Rey’s memories (and potentially Han and Leia’s) of him, leading to the “I thought he was a myth” comment, is equally offputting. I think this is a result of the recent Doctor Who episodes examining the relative fairness of non consensual memory wipes, actually; there’s something about the idea that, no matter what trauma or greater good they justify it with, makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable. Certainly, there are ways to make it work – perhaps that’s how they signify Luke’s own fall from grace – but I wonder if that’s just an attempt to fix an idea that is already fundamentally poor.

There’s also, from some people, the suggestion that Rey is a Kenobi. On the one hand, it’s a nice idea – thematically speaking, the idea that these two families are tied so closely together that we’ll see another generation of Kenobi save the latest in the Skywalker line is a really great concept, which is something they could get a really compelling story out of. And yet… it seems far too unlikely to happen, simply as a result of the level of exposition that would be needed; with no prior indication of Obi-Wan having a family, the necessary backstory to include doesn’t seem like something they’d want to shoehorn into future movies. From a practical standpoint then, I don’t see it happening.

Honestly, though, my favourite answer to this question is Rey’s own: “I’m no one.”

I’d rather see Rey as a ‘normal’ person, unconnected to any character we’ve seen before, or any important lineage. Let her story be her own; her merits as a character are borne from the fact that anyone can be special, not because of who her family is.

We’ve already got a familial connection in this new generation of characters – and it shows us how that’s not necessarily a good thing. Rey is the thematic parallel to that, then; you don’t need to be a Skywalker to be a hero.

In Star Wars, anyone should be able to be a hero.

Related:

Star Wars retrospective

On the Identity of Kylo Ren

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